You are on page 1of 3

Men in a female dominated nursing profession According to Neighbours (2011) nursing is seen as a feminine occupation and is thus devalued

in male dominated patriarchal society. It is stereotyped as having the traits of nurturing, caring, dependence and submission. This contrasts with the perceived male traits of strength, dominance and aggression. Male nurses separate themselves and the masculine sex role from their female colleagues. When someone forms an identity that is incompatible with societys expectations, people become uncomfortable and are unsure how to behave. In a society where nurses are seen as female, it is difficult for people to know how to relate to a male nurse. They find it hard to understand why anyone would choose a job dominated by the lower status sex, and make a choice that is likely to involve negative sanctions. Furthermore, men are a small minority in nursing. About 3.1 percent of nurses in the United States and Canada are male and 8.77 percent in the United Kingdom. Women who work in male dominated occupations are usually met with hostility. But men who work in female dominated occupations may not be disadvantaged. New Zealand statistics show similar trends to the United Kingdom. 7.76 percent of New Zealand nurses are male. Meanwhile, 72.48 percent of doctors in New Zealand are male. During the 1980s, the American Courts ruled that hospitals could refuse to employ men in maternity wards. In 1994, a California hospitals ban on male nurses in labor and delivery rooms was upheld by that states Fair Employment and Housing Commission. The rationale was that having male nurses performing vaginal exams would add to the patients distress and anxiety. This gives the message that male nurses are somehow less professional than male doctors. Also in 1994, a male nurse filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against two Florida hospitals who had barred him from their maternity wards because of his gender. The Commission accepted the hospitals argument

that the patients would be uncomfortable if a male nurse looked after them. The hospital paid a settlement and offered the nurse a job in another ward as a compromise measure. The Commission felt that this was enough, but if male nurses in the United States want to work in maternity wards, formal action in the Courts is the only option open to them. The perception that it is unsuitable for men to work in maternity wards is widespread. Even male student nurses are restricted in how much practical experience they may have in womens health. However, this may change as more men enroll in nursing programs. There is an unconscious expectation that men are not supposed to be nurses. People single out men in nursing as they are the minority. But men want to be seen as a nurse -not as a male nurse. They want to be part of the whole, not a highly visible minority. In addition, Neighbours (2011) also stated that nursing combines professional values as well as feminine values of caring and support. This combines with the patriarchal construct that men are valuable and that women nurses support their male colleagues, consciously or unconsciously. Even today, men are sometimes excluded within nursing. Nursing texts and articles frequently refer to nurses only as women, and the history of men in nursing is often ignored too. The major rationale for attracting men into nursing is to raise the prestige of the profession as a whole. Whether this will actually work or not is debatable. Some authors have argued that this puts more pressure on men to rescue nursing, yet others suggest that men entering the profession only elevate the status of men. Men also have an advantage due to the stereotype that men are in the breadwinner role. Women generally take primary responsibility for housework and childcare, giving men a distinct advantage. They can stay at work, while their wives interrupt their careers. There is an overwhelming perception in the United States (and the Anglo-Saxon world in general) that men are more dedicated to their work than women. This is

due to the unequal division of labor within the household. Thus, even in a female profession, men have an unfair advantage over women. Male nurses emphasize their work as task oriented rather than people oriented to further masculinise it. They distance themselves from a care orientation, which is perceived to be a female trait. Even when male nurses work at the bedside, they emphasize different caring styles and lift patients more often than their female colleagues. It is the job title and associated images, not the practice of nursing that deters men from the profession (Neighbours, 2011).